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'Unnatural' microbe can make proteins

'Unnatural' microbe can make proteins

Science
An altered microbe with an "unnatural" genetic code has been shown to assemble proteins - a key step towards designing new drugs and materials.Scientists modified the bacterium's DNA to incorporate six "letters" rather than the four found in nature.They previously found the E. coli bug could hold on to the synthetic code but was slow to grow.And it had been unclear whether the lifeforms could be used to encode proteins like normal DNA.The blueprint for all forms of life on Earth is written in a code consisting of four "letters": A, T, C and G, which pair up in the DNA double helix.The lab organism has been modified to use an additional two, giving it a genetic code of six letters.Extra letters added to life's genetic codeTranscription and translation are key steps in the process by which c...
Hidden history of prehistoric women's work revealed

Hidden history of prehistoric women's work revealed

Science
Grinding grain for hours a day gave prehistoric women stronger arms than today's elite female rowers, a study suggests.The discovery points to a ''hidden history'' of gruelling manual labour performed by women over millennia, say University of Cambridge researchers.The physical demands on prehistoric women may have been underestimated in the past, the study shows.In fact, women's work was a crucial driver of early farming economies."This is the first study to actually compare prehistoric female bones to those of living women," said lead researcher, Dr Alison Macintosh."By interpreting women's bones in a female-specific context we can start to see how intensive, variable and laborious their behaviours were, hinting at a hidden history of women's work over thousands of years." Elite athletes...
NASA's next Mars rover to improve on Curiosity

NASA's next Mars rover to improve on Curiosity

Science
Nov. 28 (UPI) -- NASA's Curiosity rover has been a tremendous success, providing scientists streams of valuable data. But there's always room for improvement, and NASA engineers expect the next rover to improve on Curiosity's technological legacy.At present iteration, the Mars 2020 rover features greater autonomy, seven new instruments and updated wheels.Despite design improvements, the new rover looks a lot like the old rover. And that's because the Mars 2020 rover utilizes much of the same hardware. In fact, so-called "legacy hardware" accounts for 85 percent of the mass of the new six-legged craft."The fact that so much of the hardware has already been designed -- or even already exists -- is a major advantage for this mission," Jim Watzin, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, s...
Horse remains belong to unrecognized genus from last ice age

Horse remains belong to unrecognized genus from last ice age

Science
Nov. 28 (UPI) -- A new analysis of ancient horse fossils suggests the New World stilt-legged horse warrants a new genus.The thin-limbed horse roamed North America during the last ice age, but is now extinct. Until now, scientists thought the horse species was a member of the genus Equus -- possible a close relative of the Asiatic wild ass, also known as an onager, Equus hemionus.Remains of the enigmatic species have been discovered in Wyoming's Natural Trap Cave, Nevada's Gypsum Cave and among the Klondike goldfields of Canada's Yukon Territory.Genomic analysis of stilt-legged horse remains suggest the species, now named Haringtonhippus francisci, isn't closely related to any living equine population. The genus Haringtonhippus likely diverged from the main branch of the horse family tree s...
Bird pulled from brink of extinction facing poisoning threat

Bird pulled from brink of extinction facing poisoning threat

Science
The red kite has become more common in the UK in the past 30 years, thanks to conservation schemes.But, while numbers of the birds of prey are on the rise, scientists say human factors threaten to derail progress.Post-mortem tests on wild red kites found many had been poisoned by lead shot, rat poison or pesticides.The study, published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research, suggests poisoning of red kites may be slowing their rate of recovery in England.Dr Jenny Jaffe of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), who worked on the study, said birds of prey, and especially scavengers, would eat animals that contained lead shot, leading to lead poisoning.''That can be changed by changing the shot gun cartridges to non lead, which a lot of countries do,'' she told BBC News. ''And, there i...